Monday's postgame locker room incident between the Clippers and Rockets was a "bad look for the league" and has to be of "major concern" for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. That comes amid an increase in on-court altercations in recent days, highlighted by the "wild swing" Magic G Arron Afflalo took at T'Wolves F Nemanja Bjelica last night, and players increasingly indicating they are "upset with referees." An "airing of grievances" about the officiating will take place in "meetings with the league at All-Star weekend." However, whatever the players say might seem "less credible now, especially after the last few days." Further complicating matters is that Rockets G and NBPA President Chris Paul recently "called out referee Scott Foster, plus allegedly had a role in the postgame events Monday." Silver is a "player-friendly commissioner, but that doesn't mean the NBA can't show some teeth" (AP, 1/17). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith believes the NBA "does not have an image problem, but it will if it continues based off of what we saw the last two days." Smith: "There’s no question that what has transpired over the last two days cannot continue. That is definitely bad for the league" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes the "potentially dangerous confrontation" at Staples Center is a "bad optic for the NBA." The scene was "shocking and must be dealt with appropriately." That means Silver, who has a "good relationship with Paul, needs to make an example" out of the four Rockets players involved. The "bare minimum would be fines and one-game suspension" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/17).
TIME TO SET A PRECEDENT: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen writes for all the jokes that have come from the image of Paul and fellow Rockets Gs Trevor Ariza, James Harden and Gerald Green going into the Clippers locker room "through a hallway that connects Staples Center rooms, the NBA might struggle to find the humor or to just leave it at [Rockets coach] Mike D'Antoni's 'boys will be boys.'" There is "little precedent for the NBA to consider" regarding suspensions. The league suspended Matt Barnes in '16 for one game for entering the Bucks' locker room after a "confrontation with the Bucks' John Henson," but it "took no action after Ariza waited in a hallway in Dallas" for Mavericks C Salah Mejri last season (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/17). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said, "You have to do something. You can't go into the opposing locker room" ("SportsNation," ESPN, 1/16). ESPN's Ramona Shelburne: "They have to set a precedent here that it is not okay to go into another team's locker room" ("OTL," ESPN, 1/16). FS1's Chris Broussard: "You need to send a message to deter them from doing it again" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 1/16).
LEADING BY EXAMPLE? Paul is coming under increased scrutiny for his role in Monday's incident due to his position within the union. FS1's Jason McIntyre called it a "classless" move by Paul and said, "It's the president of the Players Association going to look for a fight after the game" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 1/16). NBA TV's Leigh Ellis said if Paul was "leading the charge to the opposition's locker room, that deserves punishment." Ellis: "You can't have him in that role knocking down doors" ("The Starters," NBA TV, 1/16).
COULD THIS BE GOOD FOR THE LEAGUE? YAHOO SPORTS' Ben Rohrbach wrote Monday was "one of the wildest NBA regular-season nights in recent memory -- complete with 21 technical fouls, five ejections and two near postgame confrontations" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes Monday was "fight night in the NBA." It started with Raptors G Kyle Lowry and 76ers G Ben Simmons "getting chippy" toward the end of their game. But that was "almost immediately overshadowed by other antics" at Staples Center (TORONTO STAR, 1/17). ESPN's Tony Reali wondered if the recent antics are "good for the game of basketball," as "people are talking about it." ESPN's Israel Gutierrez: "It’s good for the game because it gets these conversations going without there really being a fight” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/16). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ahmed Fareed: "It's good for the NBA. There're going to be people that say, 'No, you're showing kids the wrong thing to do.' All true, but it's very entertaining" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/16). But FS1's Cris Carter said, "I do not tune in to NBA League Pass to watch UFC. That’s not what I’m interested in” ("First Things First," FS1, 1/17).
OFFICIALS NOT STEPPING UP: NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto noted one reason for the increase of on-court altercations is that referees "are not as good at defusing situations" as they once were. Players also are "more willing to talk smack to each other now." Ratto: "There's no longer that caste system. If you were a second-year guy, you didn't used to get to talk crap to a guy who's played for eight years. If you did, they would put you in your place. Now, everybody talks, and it’s because the officials have lost the ability to say, ‘Oh, we have something here’” ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/16).